Venue: Civic Hall, Leeds, LS1 1UR
Contact: John Grieve 0113 37 88662
Appeals Against Refusal of Inspection of Documents
To consider any appeals in accordance with Procedure Rule 15.2 of the Access to Information Procedure Rules (in the event of an Appeal the press and public will be excluded).
(*In accordance with Procedure Rule 15.2, written notice of an appeal must be received by the Head of Governance Services at least 24 hours before the meeting)
There were no appeals against the refusal of inspection of documents
Exempt Information - Possible Exclusion of the Press and Public
1 To highlight reports or appendices which officers have identified as containing exempt information, and where officers consider that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information, for the reasons outlined in the report.
2 To consider whether or not to accept the officers recommendation in respect of the above information.
3 If so, to formally pass the following resolution:-
RESOLVED – That the press and public be excluded from the meeting during consideration of the following parts of the agenda designated as containing exempt information on the grounds that it is likely, in view of the nature of the business to be transacted or the nature of the proceedings, that if members of the press and public were present there would be disclosure to them of exempt information, as follows:-
There were no items identified where it was considered necessary to exclude the press or public from the meeting due to the confidential nature of the business to be considered.
To identify items which have been admitted to the agenda by the Chair for consideration
(The special circumstances shall be specified in the minutes)
There were no Late Items identified
Declaration of Disclosable Pecuniary and Other Interests’
To disclose or draw attention to any disclosable pecuniary interests for the purposes of Section 31 of the Localism Act 2011 and paragraphs 13-16 of the Members’ Code of Conduct.
There were no declarations of disclosable pecuniary interest made at the meeting.
Apologies for Absence
To receive apologies for absence (If any)
Apologies for absence were received from Councillor J Bentley.
To receive and approve the minutes of the previous meeting held on 22nd November 2019.
RESOLVED – That the minutes of the previous meeting held on 22nd November 2019 were accepted as a true and correct record.
Matters Arising from the Minutes
To consider any matters arising from the minutes.
The Deputy Head of Democratic Services reported on the following Matters Arising:
Minute No.37 – Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) loan rate rise – It was reported that a joint letter had been sent from Chair of Strategy & Resources Scrutiny Board and Executive Member for Resources to MHCLG urging reconsideration of rise (circulated 21st January 2020).
Minute No.38 – Corporate Performance Management – Members were informed that officers had provided responses to each of the questions raised which had been shared with individual Members or circulated as appropriate.
Minute No.39 – Social Value in Procurement – It was reported that the guidance on social value in procurement had been considered at the 20th January meeting of Strategy & Resources Scrutiny Board and that work was ongoing within PACS to develop a social value portal.
Minute No.40 – Planning Governance – Members were informed that guidance on the referral process; chairs discretion and material planning considerations was a work in progress – Officers were planning to consult the Executive Member and Plans Panel Chairs before circulating the final note.
Minute No.42 – Redmond Review – It was reported that a response was circulated in draft and final version (amended following receipt of Members views) had also been circulated.
To consider a report by the Director of Resources and Housing which provides an update on the current position on Access databases and compliance to PSN.
With reference to the previous meeting held on 22nd November 2019 when it was acknowledged by officers that progress on the project had not been as anticipated, the Director of Resources and Housing now submitted a report which provided an update on the progress made and steps taken to re-baseline the project.
Addressing the report the Chief Digital and Information Officer said that since the last meeting work had focused on the following:
· Ensuring the right technical expertise and amount of resources were assigned to the project
· Challenge and review the methodology for moving off Access 2003 in the timeframe
· Challenge the project management, governance and escalation arrangements
· Instructions had been circulated that no new databases be created
Members referred to the 630 IT projects currently on the Digital and Information Services portfolio of work and queried if any of these would affect the public services network approval.
It was confirmed that a number of the projects would affect the public service network approval and that details would be supplied in the Annual Report.
It was reported at the last meeting that new 2003 databases were still being created, and Members asked whether this was still happening.
Members were informed that an instruction had been circulated that no new databases be created and any new databases would be immediately deleted.
A number of Members expressed disappointment at the lack of progress suggesting that officers with senior positions within the Council had not taken this project seriously, it had taken too long to identify this project as a priority and the council was in a position of needing to play catch up.
The Chief Digital and Information Officer explained that the issue had been discussed at the Corporate Leadership Team and that this project was caught by the priority design principles which had been set. It was also reported that the Project Management Team were now meeting on a three weekly bases with clear roles of responsibility having been assigned.
Members queried if the required resources were now in place with the necessary technical expertise.
Members were informed that additional resources had been assigned to the project, and that specialist agency staff would be brought into the team to meet the current lack of “developers” to provide alternative solutions to replace Access databases.
Members asked if the project timetable could be shared with Members.
The Chief Digital and Information Officer informed Members that at this stage he could not commit to a firm timetable, an action plan had been compiled but there remained a risk around the use of external expertise.
The Chair requested that the project timetable be circulated to Members (via email) by 1st March 2020 and that the Director of Resources and Housing be notified of the Committee’s request.
The Chair thanked the officers for their attendance and contributions and requested that a further progress report be brought back to the next meeting in March 2020 when it was hoped the project would be back ... view the full minutes text for item 53.
To consider a report by the Chief Officer, Customer Access and Welfare which responds to the queries from the November 2018 Governance and Audit Committee report on customer satisfaction and provides an update on customer contact and customer satisfaction with Council services.
The report outlines the work that is taking place to develop approaches which put the customer at the heart of the work and enables the council to better understand the customer experience and look at ways to enhance this.
The Chief Officer, Customer Access and Welfare submitted a report which provided the annual update on customer contact and satisfaction levels with customer services delivered through Customer Access on behalf of the Council.
The report provided:
· An update on the two key areas: telephone waiting times and transitioning to digital channels which were identified by this Committee in response to the annual report in November 2018.
· An overview of customer contact, satisfaction and developments through the Council’s corporate customer services function – Customer Access;
· An update on the audit of customer contact with Members;
· An analysis of formally logged complaints though the Customer Relations teams;
· An overview of the customer care standards.
In considering the report reference was made to council house repairs, Members suggesting that tenants would often contact the housing contractors responsible for council house repairs (Mears) directly, it was understood the call was charged at a premium rate, which was an enormous cost to the tenant.
Members were informed that such enquiries could be made through the LCC Contact Centre where calls were charged at a standard rate.
A number of Members raised the issue of call waiting times suggesting that
11 – 16 minutes to get through to particular services was not acceptable.
Members were informed that work was ongoing to reduce the volume of calls to certain services by enabling customers to self-service. It was suggested that staff recruitment and retention was an issue, once staff became fully trained they would often seek employment in other areas of the Council.
Members queried if exit interviews were undertaken to understand why staff were leaving.
The Chief Officer, Customer Access and Welfare confirmed that exit interviews were undertaken and issues such as: burnout, pressure of the job and challenging customers were all named as reasons why staff would seek alternative employment. The chief officer explained that by employing and training of apprentices within the service there was a plan to make a virtue of workforce change by retaining these staff within the council as a whole.
Members also raised the issue of automated messages, one Member said she had dialled four different numbers but on each occasion it had gone through to an automated system and in some instances the recorded message was not up to date.
The Chief Officer, Customer Access and Welfare asked if he could be supplied with specific details so that the matter could be investigated further.
Reference was made to Customer Complaints. Members asked that reporting differentiated between local residents who contact a Councillor directly before contacting the Service, and those who escalate a complaint by contacting their councillor when the service has not responded to their satisfaction.
The Chief Officer, Customer Access and Welfare confirmed that council house repairs was a particular area where tenants were seeking the support of Councillors before the service had had an opportunity to address the issue. This was a matter that that was reflected in Members case work and was currently been investigated by the ... view the full minutes text for item 54.
To consider a report by the Chief Finance Officer which informs Members of Grant Thornton’s audit plan for the audit of the Council’s accounts and its value for money arrangements. The report highlights the risk based approach to the audit and the main risks they have identified for 2019/20.
The Chair welcomed to the meeting Gareth Mills, Engagement Lead and noted apologies from Perminder Sethi, Engagement Senior Manager (Grant Thornton).
The Chief Officer Financial Services submitted a report which informed Members of Grant Thornton’s audit plan for the audit of the Council’s accounts and its value for money arrangements; detailed the outcome of the 2018/19 Housing Benefits Subsidy grant claim audit; and provided an update on 2018/19 audit fees and on PSAA’s process for approving them
The report from Grant Thornton highlighted the risk based approach to the audit and the main risks they had identified for 2019/20.
Addressing the reports Mr Mills (Grant Thornton) explained that two areas had been identified where there was a significant risk of material misstatement due to the scale of the assets and liabilities involved – the valuation of property, plant and equipment and the valuation of pension liabilities and assets.
In relation to their audit of the council’s arrangements for securing value for money, Grant Thornton had identified the key risks as being the council’s overall financial standing given the continuing significant pressures which it faces, and the potential for Brexit to impact on the council.
The Audit Plan proposed an audit fee of £198.9k. This included a fee variation of £20.3k, the reasons for which were explained in Section 10 of the Audit Plan. In addition to the information given in their audit plan, Grant Thornton had written to the Chief Finance Officer to provide more detail of the additional audit work proposed and the reasons for it. A copy of that letter was included as an appendix to the audit plan.
Members raised the issue of the 2018/19 Audit and the fee variation of £9k, noting that officers had contacted PSAA who had provided assurances that their fee variation process required that the agreement of the audited body was obtained before they confirm any agreement to an audit fee variation.
It was reported that in this case there had been a misunderstanding over whether the Council had agreed to the requested additional fees. PSAA had therefore reverted the 2018/19 fee variations to an undecided status and requested Grant Thornton to provide the council with additional information. Grant Thornton had subsequently provided more explanation of the reasons for the fee variation to the Chief Finance Officer.
Members were informed that the letter from Grant Thornton explaining the reasons for the fee variation was submitted to the Corporate Governance and Audit Committee for information, and the Section 151 Officer had the authority to approve any variation to the fee.
It was the wish of Members that the Section 151 Officer informs the Executive Member responsible and the Chair of the Corporate Governance and Audit before an increase in fees is agreed.
The Chair confirmed that he had met with the Section 151 officer and discussed the proposed audit fee variations for 2018/19 and 2019/20.
Members expressed the view that any additional work which was expected to result in a variation ... view the full minutes text for item 55.
To consider a report by the Chief Officer (Financial Services) which provides a summary of the Internal Audit activity for the period November to December 2019 and highlight the incidence of any significant control failings or weaknesses.
The Chief Officer (Financial Services) submitted a report which provided a summary of the Internal Audit activity for the period November to December 2019 and to highlight any significant failings or weaknesses.
Members noted there were 19 reports issued during the November to December 2019 period.
Referring to Housing Disrepairs, Members noted that a follow up review had been undertaken and it was considered that this was an area where significant progress had been made. A number of measures had been implemented resulting in the establishment of stronger governance arrangements and joined up working across departments.
It was suggested by Members that the issue of repairs should be raised with the tenant at the annual home visit, which would provide an opportunity to address potential areas of disrepair ahead of a claim being received
Reference was made to FMS Risk Assessment and in particular the risk of material errors arising from incorrect journal entries. Members were informed that the risk assessment had now been completed by Financial Management who were satisfied that a sound methodology had been used in undertaking the risk assessment and that compensating controls were in place.
Referring to the Review of Gifts and Hospitality, Members noted that recommendations had been agreed that would strengthen the process by ensuring that all declarations of gifts and hospitality from Directors must be subject to third party approval.
Members queried if the forms for declaring gifts and hospitality were public documents.
Members were informed that such documents were not available for public inspection.
It was noted that Internal Audit Performance was actively monitored through the use of a customer satisfaction questionnaire. Members were informed that for the period from 1 April 2019 to 31 December 2019, 34 Customer Satisfaction Questionnaires were received (25 were received during the same period last year).
Members were invited to provide any suggestions for the coverage of the Audit Plan for 2020/21.
Members asked how Leeds compared with other Core Cities in terms of resources to carry out audit work.
The Interim Head of Internal Audit suggested that some of the core cities reported more resources within their internal audit teams, however, this was explained by differences in the way that counter fraud work was organised. Members were informed that in Leeds there were a number of different teams contributing to counter fraud work across the authority.
Members requested if further information on benchmarking of resources would be provided when the Audit Plan was next presented to the Committee.
One Member queried the audit work being undertaken on the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme.
Members were informed that an update on the outcomes from this audit would be reported to Members once the audit had been completed.
(i) To receive the Internal Audit Update Report covering the period from November to December 2019 and note the work undertaken by Internal Audit during the period covered by the report.
(ii) To note that there have been no limitations in scope and nothing has arisen to ... view the full minutes text for item 56.
To receive a report by the City Solicitor which notifies Members of the Committee’s Work Programme for 2020/21.
The Head of Democratic Services presented a report of the City Solicitor which set out the ongoing Work Programme for 2020.
Following discussion at today’s meeting it was agreed that the subsequent item be added to the Work Programme:
· Applications Portfolio Programme – Update on Access Project (March 2020)
Members noted that there were currently ten items of business due for consideration at the next meeting on 16th March 2020.
The Chair suggested that this was a significant amount of business for one meeting and asked officers to review the Work Programme with a view to reducing the number of items for the next meeting and to consider a possible additional meeting of the Committee.
(i) That a report on the Applications Portfolio Programme - Update on Access Project be scheduled for the next meeting of this Committee
(ii) That officers review the Work Programme with a view to reducing the number of items for the next meeting
Date and Time of Next Meeting
To note that the next meeting will take place on Monday, 16th March 2020 at 10.00am in the Civic Hall, Leeds.
RESOLVED – To note that the next meeting will take place on Monday, 16th March 2020 at 10.00am in the Civic Hall, Leeds.